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JEFF KOEHLER

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Cairo

ABOU TAREK KOSHARY RESTAURANT
16 Maarouf - Shamplion Street
Downtown
Cairo
20/2.577.59.35
www.aboutarek.com

This huge, overlit, and chintzy place among car repair shops serves the city’s best koshary (or kushary). No easy task in a city of 15 million where literally countless street stalls and small restaurants sell this strangely delectable mix of two types of macaroni, rice, lentils, a tart tomato sauce, and a bit of chili sauce, and topped with chewy, sweet fried onions.
You’re warned
: the hot sauce in the silver shaker is truly hot.
Clientele: mechanics, students, married couples, large families.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Cairo

ABOU EL SAID157, 26th of July StreetZamalekCairo20/2.735.96.40www.abouelsid.comFor me the best restaurant in Egypt. It has funk and style, a chic retro-mod 1950s look with a mishmash of antique chairs and lamps, short-legged tables, and colorful Chant Avedissian(-like?) stenciled paintings of iconic mid-century Egyptian personalities. And the food… superb classics perfectly presented. Get the selection of appetizers (tahini, bessara, stuffed vine leaves, tamiyya) and then order the stuffed pigeon or the shrimp tajin with red rice. There are couple of branches in the city but I prefer the one in Zamalek, just across the 26th of July bridge from the heart of downtown.Browse while you wait for your table: Al Diwan Bookstore on the corner. Not your standard dusty, diorganized place but modern and gorgeous with a vast selection of English-language titles. Look for Chant Avedissian’s book “Cairo Stencils.”Recommended: everything on the menu.Unusual: Circassian chicken with walnut sauce. Turkish in origin, brought here by Ottomans.Addictive: small, stubby stuffed vine leaves served with yoghurt and mint dip.Beer: Sakkara draft.Clientele: expats, fashionable, well-healed locals, and perhaps a few stray tourists from the nearby Marriot.To linger: order a shisha with sweetened, apple-flavored tobacco.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Italy/ Trapani, Sicily

CANTINA SICILIANA
Via Giudecca, 36
Trapani
39/0923.28.673
www.cantinasiciliana.it

This unassuming cantina from the 1950s offers the city’s best traditional, Trapani-style couscous with fish broth (flavored with bay leaves and cinnamon). They top it with some perfectly prepared calamari fritti. Since 1980 it has been in the hands of Pino Maggiore, a frequent and important Slow Food collaborator.
Start with: bruschette con bottarga, thin slices of salted and pressed tuna roe.
If you’re still hungry after the couscous: pesce spada alla pantesca, swordfish with tomatoes, capers, oregano, and crushed almonds.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Italy/ Trapani, Sicily

AI LUMI TAVERNETTA
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 71/75
Trapani
39/0923.872.418
www.ailumi.it

A delightful, lively tavernetta in the center of Trapani. Built in the stable of an 18th century palace, it’s stylish blend of tradition and modern elegance, with perfectly turned local dishes such as pasta con il pesto trapanese, a local pesto made tomatoes, garlic, basil, and almonds, and sardines stuffed. An ideal place to have dinner.
Exquisite: pasta stuffed with green pesto, shrimp, and sea urchin.
Where to stay: Ai Lumi, it’s also a bed and breakfast.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Italy/ Palermo, Sicily

DA SARIDDU E FIGLI
Piazza Mondello, 48
Mondello
39/091.451.922

Palermo residents head to this simple trattoria in the seaside resort of Mondello west of the city for ricci (sea urchin) – either eaten alone, in risotto, or with spaghetti. The ricci come from the nearby island of Favignana.
Bus number: 806 from Palermo’s center takes you there.
Make the journey for: spaghetti alla ricci.
Start with: the large fasolaro clams eaten raw.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Italy/ Palermo, Sicily

PASTICCERIA ALBA
Piazza Don Bosco, 7
Palermo
39/91.309.016
www.baralba.it

Ask where to eat the best arancine - fried balls of rice the size of small oranges and often stuffed with cheese or ragù – and nearly all of Palermo will direct you to the 150-year old Pasticceria Alba. There is a small place to sit outside to eat, but it’s mainly take away, with a massive selection of sweet Sicilian pastries like casata. Large, always busy.
Don’t want to leave your hotel: call their “Arancina Taxi” that will deliver arancine to your room.
Ice cream: is eaten in a bun of brioche.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Italy/ Palermo, Sicily

MINÀ
Via Pannieri, 28
Palermo
39/091.585.168

At the entrance of Palermo’s legendary Vucciria market is a small friggitoria that specializes in panelle, fried fritters made with chickpea flour. They also sell excellent crocche, potato croquettes (they have mint inside them in the summer months when the herb is plentiful), and slices of grilled eggplant with olive oil, salt, and a sprinkling of parsley.
Owner: Francesco Paulo Minà. Ask him anything about the Palermo food scene.
The man in the framed photo that looks like Francesco: the father, who open Minà in 1934.
Ideal mid-morning snack: a sandwich of panelle and baby octopus.
Six steps: and you are inside the Vucciria market.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Italy/ Vercelli

RISTORANTE TRE RE
Via Tasso, 16
Borgo Vercelli
39/0161.32.110

Family style place just to the south of Vercelli among rice fields. You’d drive by at lunch time if it weren’t for the packed parking lot. Big space, long tables, impossibly crowded and noisy on weekends with a blaring TV, people eating and talking on cell phones (at the same time), kids dashing about, and waitresses refilling plates from large platters of rice, pasta, grilled meats… No menu that I have seen. Just sit down and devour the courses as they come.
Their specialty: panissa.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Italy/ Vercelli

RISTORANTE BALIN
Fraz. Castell’ Apertole, 6
Livorno Ferraris
39/0161.47.121
www.balinrist.it

Found in a tiny village among rice fields south of Vercelli, Balin draws people from the cites around for its superb, country-style risottos. Owner Angelo Silvestro is a funny, generous, and talented chef who works his magic with the help of his wife and daughter. (He gives demonstration on Italian TV and around the world in making risotto.) The most impressive risotto is a wheeled out in a great wheel of local Gran Padano and then mixed gently scraping away at the cheese sides, and then ladled to the plate. Heaven!
The restaurant’s other specialty: the small gray-green frogs that fill the rice fields.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Tunisia/ Djerba

RESTAURANT AND PIZZERIA CHEF HAOUARI
across the road from Hotel Holiday Beach in the Zone Touristique
Djerba
216/75.758.587

Abderrazak Haouari is a warm hearted man with gentle manners and an easy smile. He is also the country’s preeminent culinary authority who settled back home after decades working at the best restaurants in Paris and Brussels. He opened a small, simple place south of the island’s capital Houmt Souk that serves inexpensive, perfectly executed Tunisian and Djerban classics such as fish couscous. Call 24 hours in advance for lamb or fish baked in a gargoulette (terracotta pot). His young son Adel, charming with a brilliant smile, often mans the kitchen and cooks with this father’s deft touch.
Don’t miss: light, fluffy couscous, tinted red and bursting with flavor.
Tell the taxi driver: “Hotel Holiday Beach.” Then cross the street (inland) and look for the restaurant set under a palm tree.

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